The cameras he installed at his Sanford home were connected to his phone. They now showed an unbelievable picture. In real-time, Sean watched his house get destroyed by the floodwaters due to the dam failure.
“It was surreal because everything was floating around,” Sean said. He had safely evacuated to Mt. Pleasant. “I never thought the water would get that high.”
The house was not just a home for Sean. For generations, it was a backdrop for his family’s memories.
“My home has been in our family since the early 60’s,” Sean said. “My mother and her siblings grew up spending their summers on the lake as did my sister and I, and now we have a fourth-generation that has started summer life on the lake (when it comes back). We have a close-knit neighborhood with neighbors that have all been here since the mid 50’s and early 60’s. We are like family and frequently visit around bonfires, boat rides, and the occasional pop-up fish fries.”
Because of the dam failure, the neighborhood now had another thread to weave their bond even tighter. The floodwaters brought each family their own damages and loss.
“The landscape of our neighborhood has changed dramatically since the flood,” Sean explained. “Not only the lack of water but seven homes on our street are now gone. It was painful to see good neighbors leave homes that they spent their lives in and raised their children in. I miss waving at my neighbor, Donna, as she is not able to rebuild on that site.
Sean said he had three feet of water in his water and garage. Because of the age of the house, everything needed to be gutted to the studs and brought up to code. All furniture and most personal items needed to be thrown out because of mud and lake water contamination.
Thankfully, he secured safe, temporary housing from United Way of Midland County, who paid for him to stay in a hotel.
“Then I spent most of the summer living in my camper in the driveway until it got too cold,” Sean said. “Friends are letting me stay with them until I can get back into my place.”
As Sean began to pick up the pieces of his life, he realized it was not going to be a quick, easy fix.
“The most challenging part about trying to recover from the flood honestly? All of it,” he said. “It was overwhelming and difficult to even know where to start.”
Luckily, Sean wasn’t alone.
Sean Murphy’s Home in progress
“Neighbors, family, friends, and volunteers like Rick Hatfield’s group, Jeff and Dawn Swebe, volunteers from Church of The Latter-Day Saints, The Islamic Center, Calvary Baptist Church, and other local churches helped with the tear out, sorting, and cleaning, as well as finding and donating materials for the re-build,” he said.
But it was the Whirlpool Appliance sale hosted by United Way of Midland County that became an even bigger catalyst for change for Sean. Sean stopped by the United Way office to pick up a coupon made for flood survivors to use at the appliance sale. That’s when he met Becca Marcott, a disaster case manager with Long Term Disaster Recovery.
“Becca started asking me questions about where I was at in the recovery process,” Sean said. Turns out I was a long way away from needing appliances.”
Becca was able to get the process going with FEMA and lining up other resources for Sean to be able to rebuild his home.
“She has been tireless and has put in long hours in helping me,” he said. “I would not be as far along without her. I was ready to board the house up and just walk away. In the fall, I was not confident that I would be able to move back into my home. Now I have drywall up, new wiring and plumbing, and looking forward to moving in sometime this summer. If anyone is struggling with anything regarding the flood, I would highly encourage them to contact Becca.”
Sean said Becca and the community have made a huge difference in his life.
“Thank you to Becca and all of the people that have worked tirelessly to rebuild our community,” he said. “Also, a huge thank you to those in the community that have donated to help myself and others affected. It has helped more than you know.”
If you are a flood survivor looking for more information and support, contact a disaster case manager at call 989-374-8000.
United Way of Midland County is accepting applications for a full-time Content Manager.
This creative and collaborative storyteller provides the year-round voice for UW and connects the dots for everything we do. Highly collaborative, they create a shared language for our work both internally and for external stakeholders. It requires compassion, creativity, strong relationship skills, flexibility, working cross-functionally and being receptive to the evolving needs of the community and United Way.
REQUIREMENTS: Bachelor’s degree in communications, marketing or business with a demonstrated ability to develop content and create compelling stories.
If you are interested in joining a fun, mission-driven team, please submit a cover letter and resume by June 4, 2021.
Help United Way and Hidden Harvest stock local pantries across the Great Lakes Bay Region this summer.
United Way of Bay County, United Way of Midland County, and United Way of Saginaw are participating alongside 23 United Ways across Michigan in the first-ever statewide Summer Stock Up food drive event June 1 – 28.
“Access to healthy food is a challenge for many, especially low-income and ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) families. The recent ALICE report showed that 38 percent of our neighbors are struggling with food insecurity across the state,” shared Holly Miller, president & CEO of United Way of Midland County. “That number is only growing and statewide data shows an increased demand for food resources well into 2022 and summer is historically a time when kids are out of school and demand increases.”
This month-long community initiative will help to stock the shelves of local pantries during a season of great need. Regional United Ways are partnering with Hidden Harvest. Through their food rescue and distribution program, Hidden Harvest serves 170 pantries and agencies throughout Midland, Bay, and Saginaw Counties.
“This year, the need for food is greater than ever with the cancelation of annual food collections and the increased demand due to Covid-19. Great Lakes Bay Region alone is facing a deficit of 260,000+ pounds of food. The United Way Summer Stock Up event will help us fill that need and continue to get healthy food into the hands of our neighbors,” said Samantha McKenzie, Executive Director of Hidden Harvest.
In addition to the statewide sponsor Kellogg’s, local sponsors for this event include: Dow, Corteva Agriscience, DuPont, Garber Automotive Group, Trinseo, SC Johnson, Covenant Healthcare and HAP. Event support is also being provided by: Great Lakes Loons, 1st State Bank, Bay City Towne Center and Two Men and a Truck.
The community is invited to donate online at www.stockupGLBR.com or drop off non-perishable food items to any of the following regional drop-off locations.
Garber Chevrolet, 1700 N Saginaw Road – Midland
1st First State Bank, 400 Ashman Street – Midland
United Way of Midland County – 115 Jerome St.
The UPS Store – 2014 N Saginaw Rd
Feeny Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Midland – 7400 Eastman Ave
“Each and every one of us can play a role in helping our neighbors,” shared Holly. “We are so grateful to our amazing corporate and community partners for helping keep local pantry shelves full over the busy summer months.”